NHS Addictions Services experts share life-saving drug safety advice for International Overdose Awareness Day | News and Events

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NHS Addictions Services experts share life-saving drug safety advice for International Overdose Awareness Day

Pictured: Tonya Nettleton (left) and Dr Tracey Myton (right)


International Overdose Awareness Day is the world’s largest annual campaign to raise awareness of overdose, the challenges it brings to our society, and share information on how to stay safe for those at risk.

Advice for Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford residents

For International Overdose Awareness Day, on 31 August 2021, Dr Tracey Myton, Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist, and Tonya Nettleton, Team Manager, both from Achieve Addictions Services at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), share life-saving information and advice about the circumstances surrounding overdose, and how those at risk of overdose can stay safe.

Dr Tracey Myton, Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist at Achieve Addictions Services, GMMH, said:

Dr Tracey Myton “At Achieve we help people who use drugs and alcohol to keep themselves as safe as possible and ultimately to recover from their drug and alcohol use. We know that many lives are tragically cut short through accidental overdose which causes great distress to families, friends, and all those who know them.

“Often I ask my patients, many of whom are in their 40s, how many friends they have lost to drug use. Their response is usually ‘about half of them’. Accidental overdose makes up a large part of these deaths. Accidental overdose is avoidable.

“Drug related deaths are typically considered in the context of people using illicit heroin. However, we more commonly see accidental drug-related deaths as a result of the use of multiple types of drug, including alcohol, internet-sourced tablets or prescription drugs. Some deaths occur in younger people trying drugs for the first time, but many occur in older, experienced drug users, who think they know what they are doing. Factors such as a slight chest infection, or a dangerous batch of heroin or tablet may make the difference between intoxication and overdose.

“Across our Achieve services in Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford, we encourage our service users to reduce their risk of accidental overdose by offering life-saving support, treatment and advice to them, their family and carers. But we know that there are many more people out there who will not be aware of the risks, and how to stay safe.”

Tonya Nettleton, Interim Operational Manager at Achieve Addictions Services, GMMH, said:

Tonya Nettleton “We want as many people as possible to understand the simple principles and behaviours that can prevent unnecessary deaths and the needless suffering of families and friends.

“Here are the safety tips:

  1. Never use drugs on your own. If something goes wrong, it is important there is someone who can get help for you.
  2. Be extremely careful when using a new batch of drugs or tablets. Only use a tiny amount to check the strength of that drug. Drug supplies change frequently; you can’t be sure what was in your drugs or tablets yesterday will be the same today.
  3. Injecting drugs is dangerous. Injecting increases the risk of a fatal overdose or developing debilitating health problems, such as infections from blood borne viruses.
  4. If you do inject, use clean needles . Sterile needles can be obtained free of charge from needle exchanges in local pharmacies and local drug services. This can also be a chance to talk to someone about accessing drug and alcohol services.
  5. Your tolerance reduces significantly after a period of not using certain drugs . Some drugs cause ‘tolerance’ when used regularly over weeks or months. This means people can take increasingly larger amounts of the drug, yet experience the same effects as when they were taking a smaller amount. If they then have a break from these drugs, for example during a hospital admission, the tolerance reduces significantly. People may not realise this and take the amount they were taking before the break, which can lead to accidental overdose. In fact, it is well recognised that drug-taking after a period of abstinence can be extremely dangerous due to the reduction in tolerance.
  6. Carry naloxone . Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose for a short period of time. The aim is to give time for friends or onlookers to call 999 and access further medical treatment at an Emergency Department. If people are using opioids such as heroin, it is very important that they carry naloxone, which can be provided by Achieve. However, it can be useful for any overdose, as it is not always clear which drug has been taken.
  7. Access treatment at Achieve . People who are in treatment for a drug problem have a lower risk of dying from overdose.

Here are the indications that someone might have overdosed:

  • Reduced consciousness – not responding when shouted at.
  • Difficulty breathing (long pauses between breaths compared to normal)
  • Snoring/raspy breathing. 
  • Blue or pale lips, fingers, or toes.

“When this happens:

  • Try to stay calm and do not leave the person
  • Administer naloxone if you have it 
  • Ring 999 immediately and follow instructions given to you.
  • Still ring 999 even if you have given naloxone.”

Achieve provides high quality, community-based support and treatment across Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford.  Between April 2019 and 2021 Achieve services have issued naloxone packs to 3,477 individuals and provided training on how to use it.

If you are worried about your own, or someone else’s alcohol or drug use, and/or would like to find out more about how to access the life-saving naloxone, help is available. If you live in Bolton, Bury, Salford or Trafford, you can contact Achieve on 0161 358 1530, or fill out our referral and assessment form at www.gmmh.nhs.uk/achieve.

Advice for Cumbria residents

For International Overdose Awareness Day, Unity Recovery Services teamed up with Cumbria Police to share life-saving drug safety advice.

Detective Inspector David Howard, of Cumbria Police, said:

“As always, we would urge those who are using or considering using such substances to consider the potential consequences of their actions.

“Taking drugs can prove to be fatal and ruins lives.

“There is support out there for people affected and I’d encourage people to access the support that services, such as Unity, can provide.”

Lucy Reed, Acting Locality Manager, Unity, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) said:

“Anyone using substances can be at risk of accidental overdose and it’s really important that people who are using drugs are aware of how to keep themselves and others as safe as possible.

“The risk of drug related overdose increases significantly when more than one substance is used together, someone uses drugs alone or drugs are injected.”

If you are worried about your own, or someone else’s drug use, help is available. If you live in Cumbria, you can contact Unity by email at unityspoc@gmmh.nhs.uk or by telephone on the numbers below:

Carlisle and Eden

Tel: 01228 212060  


Tel: 01229 207020


Tel: 01539 244004


Tel: 01946 350 020


Tel: 01900 270 010

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